sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Genuine News

Here are a few bits and pieces that you won't hear about in the New York Times on CNN or MSNBC because it doesn't fit their narrative.

ObamaCare Follies
(Washington Examiner) A majority of online and social media defenders of Obamacare are professionals who are "paid to post," according to a digital expert. 
"Sixty percent of all the posts were made from 100 profiles, posting between the hours of 9 and 5 Pacific Time," said Michael Brown. "They were paid to post." 
Click the link above for more details.
And this link below underscores what I count as wisdom to have made the decision to leave California. I doubt that it will pass because the legislature won't be able to find the $40 billion to pay for it --- but the thought is unsettling.
(Washington Examiner) With congressional Republicans working to end Obamacare, California will consider going it alone and instituting a statewide single-payer health insurance system. 
State Sen. Ricardo Lara introduced a bill Friday that would make California the first state to adopt a single-payer system, according to the Los Angeles Times
Single-payer bills made it through the state's legislature in 2006 and 2008 but were vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Under such a system, the government essentially becomes the health insurer, sidelining private insurance companies and dictating coverage. 
"More than ever, we know that universal healthcare is popular in the minds of Californians," Lara told the Times.
The Stock Market

I don't know if the DJI will pass 21,000 this week, but the market has created roughly $3 trillion since Donald Trump was elected. The elite, corrupt, smug, mainstream media write this off as a 'hiccup' that they try to explain away the meteoric rise in confidence in traditionally pessimistic economic markets. It doesn't matter whether or not you own stock. The boom benefits us all. 

News of toy makers returning manufacturing to the US from China, Intel bringing 10,000 jobs to Phoenix and auto plants opening in Michigan and elsewhere should be headlines, but they're not because the progressive, self-satisfied, elite mainstream media has other political plans and they don't include giving out good news that would encourage the GOP.

Following the Money

The elite mainstream media is not a monolithic group. It consists of many like-minded billionaires, each with a slightly different goal and plenty of money to pursue it. Sadly, you don't see many of them promoting a drained swamp in Washington DC. That's primarily because they have benefited in a massive way from the swamp, political pay-offs and kick-backs. They hire the K Street lobbyists and they drop bags of cash on the desks of lawmakers. It's been a sweet hustle, and they do not want to see that come to an end.

It's not just George Soros (diagram left) or Jeff Bezos who owns, the Washington Post and has a $600 million contract with the CIA for cloud computing. The legion is vast and none of them have your best interests at heart.

While in Mexico I had a lunch conversation with a very senior member of the Mexican Government and he was mystified why the meeting that Carlos Slim had with President Trump didn't soften the American view of Mexico. I said, "Carlos Slim owns a majority share in the New York Times and all it does is print lies about him." My friend chewed down his bite of steak, took a slug of red wine and said, "well that makes sense, doesn't it?" He said it in Spanish, but you get the picture.

The Second Amendment

Retina Scans

Within a year or two, we should see retina scans at airports as part of the security process. (more here) It's in the beta test mode but it's a more certain way of identifying people and matching people to travel credentials. If you're upset about all this drama - thank a Muslim.

I'm no happier about this and DNA than anyone else is, but it's the future, it's coming and we will all have to live with it.

I'm documented from here to next Thursday because of what I've done for a living including Global Entry/Sentri, etc. and I don't fear it, but I'm not comfortable with it either. It's just one more brick in the wall. Though I don't think that there will be much retinal scanning done up on Arizona's Mogollon Rim.

Monday, February 27, 2017

On War and Money

We've been involved in a war since September 11, 2001 across the Middle East and into Afghanistan. The wars, much of which involved wasteful spending, cost the nation $6 trillion. The Iraq War was unnecessary then but under the theory, "you broke it, you bought it," we're still trying to balance out that part of the world which has never ever - ever - been balanced.

President Trump will ask Congress for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, some of which will go to the border wall. After eight years of gross negligence under Obama's watch and heavy depletion during the prior Bush years, it's not enough.  Those in the know feel that the entire Defense Dept. budget projected for 2018 of $608 billion is insufficient to fix the navy alone. I tend to agree. There are libertarians who read this blog who may wish to savage me for these sentiments, but simply ignoring the world does not keep us safe

The question of how much is enough is a recurring theme that I don't have an answer to. Clearly finding a balance would be useful. How much longer will the B-52 Stratofortress have to remain in service? The aircraft went into service before I was born - and I'm old now. The USAF plans to replace the B-52 in a few years with the B-21 Raider (a follow-on to the B-2 Spirit, which rolled out at $2 billion per aircraft). Northrop Grumman assures us all that the new bomber can be built for $550 million each. Maybe President Trump can re-negotiate that price? Meanwhile, I'm sure that my grandsons will see B-52's still in service when they're adults. Billion dollar aircraft are absurd. We can't afford to use them because we can't afford to lose them. And they don't work that often.
The B-52 had the highest mission capable rate of the three types of heavy bombers operated by the USAF in the 2000–2001 period. The B-1 averaged a 53.7% ready rate, the B-2  achieved 30.3%, while the B-52 averaged 80.5%. The B-52's $72,000 cost per hour of flight is more than the B-1B's $63,000 cost per hour, but less than the B-2's $135,000 per hour.
Things are wearing out, though and a lot of it is critical.

          One Example (among many)

The Trident Missile arm of our triad nuclear defense ride on a fleet of SSBN's (nuclear missile launching submarines). It's deterrence and it's a good idea. More than anything, the submarines provide a secure response to a nuclear attack. Even one submarine launching its missiles with their MRV warheads means that somebody, somewhere will be flattened. 
The U.S. Navy operates three kinds of submarines—nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines (SSGNs), and nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).2 The SSNs and SSGNs are multi-mission ships that perform a variety of peacetime and wartime missions. They do not carry nuclear weapons.
The Navy currently operates 14 Ohio (SSBN-726) class SSBNs. The boats are commonly called Trident SSBNs or simply Tridents because they carry Trident SLBMs.

The first of the 14 Ohio-class SSBNs will reach the end of its 42-year service life in 2027. The remaining 13 will reach the ends of their service lives at a rate of roughly one ship per year thereafter, with the 14th reaching the end of its service life in 2040. The Navy has initiated a program to refurbish and extend the service lives of D-5 SLBMs to 2042 "to match the Ohio Class submarine service life."

Unlike other services the Navy requires a long lead time to design and build platforms, most of which have planned obsolescence. The same is true of ordnance. The new Colombia Class SSBN will need to be designed, built and tested along with a new class of Trident missiles, which will replace the aging D-5.

More than any other submarine class, the SSBN's must be undetectable in order to provide the deterrent strike that the nation requires. If you take them out of the equation, the capacity of the nation to retaliate against a nuclear strike on the US is called into question.


The Sign of the Donkey

The Sanders constituency didn't win control of the Democrat Party, and Obama has the tiller through Tom Perez, who has always been his cat's paw. Perez's job is to motivate working class white people while his party has built itself on hating and mocking working class white people who 'cling bitterly to their God and guns'.

President Trump found the whole arrangement much to his liking (and personal amusement) and tweeted as is his way. The progs were not amused at the tweet and feel that they can motivate the deplorables to vote for their candidates, and to let more illegals in to take what jobs are remaining in the Heartland.

The Sign of the Black Tie Extravaganza

The White House Correspondent’s Dinner is an event where the elite, smug, self-satisfied, deceptive, progressive mainstream media parties with the President. Many Hollywood grandees are often invited to share in the narcissistic orgasm that the press has at their big night with the President. This year, they all threatened to boycott the dinner as a signal to President Trump. 

President Trump announced that he wasn't going to attend but that they should have a grand time of self congratulation (not unlike the Oscars) without him.

The elite mainstream media (which replaced the Democrat Party as a major US political party) decried President Trump's failure to participate as a shot across the bow of free speech and freedom of the press. No, it's not the Super Bowl, but you can still eat popcorn and watch the fireworks.

Signaling the Long March in the Spratly Islands

Chinese crews are building concrete structures with retractable roofs on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs. These are the three man-made islets which have operational runways and other support structures. 

The Chinese said that they are carrying out normal construction activities on their own territory. The deployment of necessary and appropriate territorial defense facilities is a normal right under international law for sovereign nations, an official said.

Installation of hardened and weather-proof shelters for air defense missile systems on the three islets with runways is a technological step up from anti-aircraft guns and shoulder-fired air defense missiles. The Chinese are building, perhaps nearing completion of, an integrated, modern local air defense system. It probably already is a sector in the national integrated air defense system. 

The new construction is a continuation of China’s militarization of the Spratly Islands, rather than a new stage in the process. After the Chinese completed the construction of the runways, this step was certain to follow. It was just a matter of time. Declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) is a logical next step.

Chinese annexation of territory that was not theirs is simply muscle flexing on their part that came easy during the eight years when the US signaled weakness and a lack of interest in stopping them (or anyone else including ISIS). I don't know how that will change in terms of absolute function now that there is a new US administration. Practically, the Chinese will wait for the mid-term elections to see how much staying power the new American philosophy has before it continues to expand like a cancer across the Pacific.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dribs and Drabs

Don't be Tardy to the Party

I am protesting the Oscars tonight by not watching (I usually don't watch but I'm not watching for a reason) because the Academy and the actors, directors, producers, and so forth are all racists. If they were the least bit inclusive, they'd invite illegal aliens, radical Muslims, the homeless/hungry and others whose causes they espouse to the Oscars and to all of the after-parties. Thus they are by definition, xenophobic bigots

They will be swilling champagne, eating caviar on crackers and congratulating each other while surrounded by walls and armed guards. Their behavior is the very marrow of progressiveness in America.

Town Hall Meetings

Republicans who are courageous enough to host town hall meetings have been shouted down by people who want to keep ObamaCare. Those citizens, most of whom were Obama voters, are too stupid to understand that most insurance carriers have dumped ObamaCare and that the program is broke. It was poorly conceived and the roll-out was nothing short of disastrous. Unless you're in the Medicaid category of poor, what coverage remains is vastly expensive for mediocre coverage. If Congress doesn't pass a fix, it will go broke and those unhappy voters won't have any insurance at all.

Race Relations

File this one under: You're only as white as you think you are.
Rachel Dolezal, white woman who identifies as black, now jobless, may soon be homeless (more here from Fox News). Dolezal says that she's a trans-negro and that she was never comfortable being white. At the moment nobody wants to hire her or pay her rent. She claims that she's been offered roles in the porn industry.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Dream Catcher

The Pipeline

Maybe it's just me, but I find it ironic that those (hippies) protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock turned the area they were protesting in into a "muddy cesspool of human waste and hazardous fuels". To be fair to them the Occupy Wall Street (hippies) did the same thing to the area where they protested in New York City. 
(Fox News)...North Dakota originally offered protesters a carrot. If they agreed to leave peacefully, they would receive a hotel room and bus ticket to anywhere in the U.S. As of Wednesday night, none had taken it. They also offered a courtesy or ‘ceremonial arrest’ for anyone needing a picture for their Facebook page...Now the cleanup efforts begin. The camps span more than 1,000 acres, which had been, according to state officials, sensitive wildlife habitat. Now, because of an early thaw and thousands of “water protectors” it is a wet, muddy cesspool of human waste and hazardous fuels after protesters turned the native grassland into a dumping ground. 
According to the Col John Henderson of the US Army Corp of Engineers, crews have already removed some 250 truckloads of trash, but his agency plans to spend upwards to $1.2 million of taxpayer money to rehabilitate the area. 
"To ensure that none of this garbage and waste and debris and structures and vehicles ended up in the reservoir. That would be an absolute environmental catastrophe,” Henderson said. 
Most of the protesters who spoke to Fox News said fighting the pipeline was a life-changing experience. They didn’t want the moment to end.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
It's pathetic that these protesters have such empty lives that they have to find meaning through living like animals, eating on the charity of the Indians and others -- all the while -- threatening the health of the Indians who they profess to want to aid and whose health they profess to want to protect. Progs/hippies/liberals share a lot of those contradictory values.  

Some of those very same people wanted corrupt Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World. Many of them want to see Elizabeth (Fake Indian) Warren as the next President because she's a fake Indian. Since they either watch fake or very fake news, that makes sense in a twisted, progressive, corrupt way.

Trannys are Upset

As this blog has pointed out several times with sincere parodies that, the progressive movement, which glories in transgenderism and sodomy, holds to the notion that gender is a construct, not a biological reality, and that "you are what you feel that you are at the moment".

The Wall Street Journal reports.

In another time, the liberals/progressives who foam at the mouth, rolling on the ground in a fit and projectile vomit at these presidential memorandums that said, "it's a state problem, not a federal issue", would be stuffed into a straight jacket and tossed into a padded cell in a lunatic asylum and medicated until they were able to rejoin society.

There may not be a way to talk someone out of the belief that boys magically change into girls by donning a dress and wearing lipstick any more than a spray on tan and Sideshow Bob hair-do make somebody a negro.

Sideshow Bob
Technically speaking, the Left is not insane. They are people who act insane, and adopt insane beliefs, because the act of adopting an insane belief makes them feel that they have godlike sovereign power to discard reality at will, and bend others to their will. Denying an obvious reality makes them feel empowered. The more obvious the reality they deny, the more empowered they feel.

         There is an Up-Side to all this

Surgery can arguably change things, but that's not how the progs want to define gender. For now, it's up to the states to decide. In California, everyone is a man, a woman and neither all at the same time. It's tough to get more progressive than that. I now need to apply for a small business loan under no-interest provisions as a black woman to take full advantage of the progs.  Hopefully they'll forgive the massive loan (sort of like Obama's Green Energy loan program) when I default because everybody tried to keep the black woman down and I couldn't get a break. These things happen. I haven't decided what sort of business to open - maybe some sort of social justice research think tank that I can run at a loss, funded by the California Legislature.

A New Hope

There are presently 102 openings for federal judgeships in the US. More will come open during the Trump Administration. None of those slots will be filled by progs -- and they are appointed for life. It's not only the Supreme Court that will be transformative with Trump appointees.

Norks Used VX Nerve Agent

Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said investigators were able to pinpoint the substance based on swabs taken from the eyes and face of the late Kim Jong Nam.
“The chemical substance has been identified as S-2-diisopropylamino-ethylmethylphosphonothioate or ‘VX nerve agent’.”

“VX is listed as a chemical weapon under Schedule 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention Act 2005 and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) 1997.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “VX is the deadliest nerve agent ever created. Known by its US Army code name, it is a clear, colorless liquid with the consistency of motor oil. A fraction of a drop of VX, absorbed through the skin, can fatally disrupt the nervous system.”
VX is a powerful neuro-toxin that is used exclusively as a weapon. The substance has no taste or smell, making it difficult to detect save for its slightly reddish hue. If inhaled, doses as low as 30—50 mg·min/m3 are fatal. The substance can also kill at a dose of 10mg via prolonged skin contact, but can be safely washed off using water or household bleach.

Symptoms of VX poisoning include shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, which can be confused for cardiac arrest. (Readers will recall that North Korean authorities said Kim Jong Nam died of heart stroke.)

Kim Jong Un, the only fat man in North Korea,
had his brother murdered in Malaysia using VX.
North Korea is one of the world’s largest producers and stockpilers of chemical weapons of mass destruction. Public testimony by senior defense officials indicates that the North Korean inventory is 2,500 – 5,000 metric tons. 

Experts judge that North Korea has weaponized 20 different kinds of chemical agents. North Korea’s favorite agents are mustard, phosgene, sarin and V-agents, including VX. The two-step process of applying VX to Kim Jong Nam’s face by two separate assassins indicates facility in developing VX in a binary form, which is safer to transport. 

For many years, North Korea’s primary delivery systems for chemical weapons were artillery and rockets. North Korea adapted Soviet artillery doctrine for sequencing chemical weapons shells with conventional explosive shells in an artillery attack. It is certain that chemical rounds would be used in artillery attacks in a war against South Korea.

With the development of its ballistic missile program, North Korea is believed to have created a significant inventory of chemical warheads for its ballistic missiles. The significance of this brief overview is that it shows that the North Korean intelligence services and armed forces became proficient with chemical weapons of mass destruction before they had a working nuclear program. 

Prior to Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, the only VX attack reported in open sources was the Aum Shinrikyo murder of a suspected spy in its organization in Osaka, Japan, in December 1994.

The determination that VX was the cause of death tends to implicate North Korea because Kim Jong Un had a motive to kill his half-brother and none of the other admitted VX producers have. The other admitted producers are the US, Russia and Syria prior to the Syrian civil war. 

For Malaysia, the assassination might be a deal breaker in relations with North Korea because North Korean agents used a chemical weapon of mass destruction in Kuala Lumpur.

The NORKS Blame China

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published on 23 February a signed commentary that criticized and disparaged China. The comment is titled, “Shabby Behavior and an Infantile Calculation.” Key excerpts follow.
“Under the energetic guidance of the respected and beloved comrade supreme leader, we completely succeeded in the test-firing of a ‘Pukku'kso'ng-2’-type surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile on 12 February. This heroic feat that we performed this time has instantly rocked the world and the international community is definitely acknowledging our nuclear attack capabilities that have achieved a leap in quality….” 
“Nonetheless, a neighboring country which talks about ‘a friendly neighbor’ whenever the opportunity presents itself, is downplaying the significance of this time's test-firing, saying that ‘it is a nuclear technology which is only in the initial stage,’ ‘North Korea will suffer the biggest loss,’ and so on.” 
“In particular, on the pretext of the UN ‘sanctions resolutions’ -- which are legally unjustified -- it is unhesitatingly taking even the inhumane measures of totally blocking even the foreign trade related to the improvement of the people's living standards.” 
“It is taking such measures while chanting as if it is its habit of speaking that the UN ‘sanctions resolutions’ should not affect the people's daily lives. This, in actuality, is not different from the maneuvers the enemies are kicking up to bring down our system.” 
“While dancing to the tune of the United States, without its own opinion, the country claiming to be a so-called big country is defending itself by saying its dirty behavior is not to affect our people's living but to deter our nuclear program.” 
“In this regard, the just voices of the world are laughing at it, while saying that ‘the neighbor which is big in size is imposing sanctions on North Korea to please the United States,’ but the hostile forces against us are uttering yells of delight.” 
“We will churn out the ultra-cutting-edge weapons that no other people have ever seen and no other countries have ever possessed, because we have the self-reliant national defense industry which great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung and great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il founded by devoting their whole lives and because we have the national defense scientists and technicians struggling by holding high the slogan of faith that the party center's strategic plan and intent precisely mean practice and by making their hearts afire with a do-or-die resolve.” 
“With these weapons, we will safeguard peace and stability in Northeast Asia and in the rest of the world through our own strength. Through today's reality as well, our people are once again keenly realizing how correct our party's simultaneous line is.” 
“We will advance invariably and straight along the path of the simultaneous line (of nuclear production and economic development” and will deal a heavy blow to the United States and its follower forces and will achieve a final victory with the almighty nuclear deterrent.”
China is not mentioned by name, but it is the only ‘friendly neighbor’. The actions that offend North Korea are those taken by China. 

The use of a signed comment, rather than an official statement, is always intended to provide the regime with some measure of deniability about the content. This is a fig leaf. Every article published by a North Korean outlet is written by a government or party official and is approved by a Korean Worker’s Party Secretary. The author’s name is a pseudonym. One translation is “righteous pen.”

This is the first North Korean reaction to China’s suspension of coal imports. It also is the first time North Korea has criticized China so openly. The comments are deeply insulting to China.

Thoughts on the Nork Nuclear Missile Program

The criticism is noteworthy in several respects. The North Korean author, and the Worker’s Party Secretary who approved the publication of the commentary, revealed that North Korea understands China’s criticism of the missile launch as part of its opposition to North Korea’s nuclear program. The implication is that the reason China criticized the 12 February missile test is because China judges the new missile is being designed to carry nuclear warheads.

A second theme is that China’s sanctions are identical to those of North Korea’s enemies. The implication here is that North Korea perceives that China is becoming, or at least acting like, it is North Korea’s enemy.

A favorite theme is the North Korean accusation that the UN always does the bidding of the United States. Thus, China is not acting independently.

The commentary ends with a patriotic paean to the Kims; a defiant statement that the programs will continue and the threat of “heavy blow” to the US and its follower forces, which could be construed to include China. Chinese relations with North Korea are in crisis. The sanctions will not be allowed to impede North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, regardless of how they affect the populace.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Stand or Don't

Irrespective of how successful Donald Trump's Presidency may be, he is an enemy of the powers-that-be and they will not rest until he is destroyed. This is war and there can be only one winner, the American Republic or the elites who control it. 

As I write here in the Spring of 2017, that contest is far from over and the outcome remains in the balance, however there are some encouraging signs. Elsewhere on the planet, there are people trying to take back their governments. BREXIT was a good sign. A change of sentiment across all of Europe has the elites concerned. It's not just the USA that stands at the brink, but since I live here, I'm more impacted by the 'war' more personally.

The propaganda machine (the corrupt, progressive, elite, smug, self-satisfied, lying mainstream media) has a 24/7 news cycle that is dedicated to pushing their agenda at the expense of the public. Hillary Clinton was their choice and they are sifting through political puppets to find a new one since she let them down. Whoever it is must be completely devoid of ethics, lacking any devotion to the Constitution or to the people...but we have a lot of those in public life.

Propaganda works. It's called by different names, but fake news is a good one and so is 'very fake news'. The media operates under that you can throw enough mud that some of it will stick with some people and their reach is deep and pervasive. There are only two political parties and one is the mainstream media, which stopped reporting the news and started making their own news some time ago. They represent the elites, your betters, and they are bound and determined to school you (and me).

By all measures, Trump's first thirty days have been a triumph. Look at the stock market, look at wealth creation that trickles down to us all, look at the effort to uphold laws that have been on the books for decades. But you will never see that on a mainstream news outlet.

Individually, we either stand with those who believe in freedom and democracy or those who wish to live off the facade of freedom and democracy to keep us forever divided, afraid and dispossessed.

And there is always the third way - going Galt and retiring to a defensive posture far from the trampling elephants and donkeys.


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water -- key to life as we know it -- under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.
Michaël Gillon, Amaury H. M. J. Triaud, Brice-Olivier Demory, Emmanuël Jehin, Eric Agol, Katherine M. Deck, Susan M. Lederer, Julien de Wit, Artem Burdanov, James G. Ingalls, Emeline Bolmont, Jeremy Leconte, Sean N. Raymond, Franck Selsis, Martin Turbet, Khalid Barkaoui, Adam Burgasser, Matthew R. Burleigh, Sean J. Carey, Aleksander Chaushev, Chris M. Copperwheat, Laetitia Delrez, Catarina S. Fernandes, Daniel L. Holdsworth, Enrico J. Kotze, Valérie Van Grootel, Yaseen Almleaky, Zouhair Benkhaldoun, Pierre Magain, Didier Queloz. Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. Nature, 2017; 542 (7642): 456 DOI: 10.1038/nature21360
At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.
"This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Answering the question 'are we alone' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."
Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated. Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated -- scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star -- classified as an ultra-cool dwarf -- is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person were standing on one of the planet's surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.
A Few More Details: TRAPPIST-1 is 8% the mass of and 11% the radius of the Sun. It has a temperature of 2550 K (Kelvin) and is at least 500 million years old. In comparison, the Sun is about 4.6 billion years old and has a temperature of 5778 K.
Owing to its mass, the star has the ability to live for up to 4–5 trillion years, meaning that TRAPPIST-1 may remain a main sequence star when the Universe is much older than it is now, and when the gas needed to make stars will have been used up. The star is metal-rich, with a metallicity ([Fe/H]) of 0.04, or 109% the solar amount. This is particularly odd as such low-mass stars near the boundary between brown dwarfs and hydrogen-fusing stars are expected to have considerably less metallic composition than the Sun. Its luminosity is 0.04% of that of the Sun.
The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing -- transits -- of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer's ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer's "warm mission," which began after the spacecraft's coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.
"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets."
However interesting these planets are, the distance (close in astronomical terms) is thousands of years distant for even the most (realistic) futuristic projections for spacecraft.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

China - US - North Korea Update

At the 21 February daily press conference, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang fielded several press questions about the announcement that a US carrier battle group will conduct regular patrols in the South China Sea.
The first questioner asked for China’s response to the announcement. “The United States has announced that it is sending an aircraft carrier battle group to the South China Sea to carry out regular patrols. What is the Chinese side's response to that?”
Geng replied, “The Chinese side has noted relevant reports. The Chinese side always respects the freedom of navigation and over-flight that countries enjoy in the South China Sea under international law. But we oppose relevant countries' threatening and undermining sovereignty and security of coastal countries under the banner of ‘freedom of navigation and over-flight.’ We hope that relevant countries can do more things that are conducive to maintaining regional peace and stability.”

The second questioner asked whether the nature of the US ships undertaking regular patrols was considered a provocation.

Geng answered, “Thanks to the concerted efforts by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, the situation in the South China is on the course of stability and developing in a positive direction and in the direction of turning for the better. We have stated multiple times that it is hoped that relevant countries, in particular countries outside the region, can respect the efforts made by China and ASEAN countries, help maintain and consolidate the excellent and positive momentum at present, and do more things that are conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
The US announcement has gotten the attention of the Chinese leadership. Geng Sheng’s remarks are temperate, but do not reflect the views of Chinese generals and admirals and the top party leadership. They almost certainly do consider the US action to be provocative

USS Carl Vinson
The underlying Foreign Ministry message is that the US Navy does not need to patrol in the South China Sea because the nations around the South China Sea have worked out or are working out all the issues. The US presence will just mess things up by threatening peace and stability. 

The positive momentum means that China, in the absence of US naval patrols, has been having success in persuading the other countries that rim the South China Sea to accept Chinese hegemony.

The other Chinese ministries may be expected to have much stronger reactions. The US battle group should expect harassing actions along with the usual Chinese escort and surveillance ships that always tail and monitor US Navy ships in the South China Sea. 

President Trump is announcing that the US has returned and that the eight failed, miserable, years when Barack was commander-in-chief, are over. China can do little but wait President Trump out and hope that he's replaced by another "post-American" president such as Obama was. However China does not want to gamble that Trump won'd be re-elected and that VP Mike Pence won't replace him in eight years, and thus they don't want to spend eight or possibly sixteen years waiting. They plan to make a positive spin on things by working with the US where they are able.

That brings us to North Korea and the Six Party Talks. An Op Ed piece in China's Global Times on 22 February said that it is time for the Six Party Talks to resume. You'll recall that the Global Times is the media instrument where the PRC announces things without doing it formally. Thus if you're interested in what China is up to, you read their publication.
“China has announced it would ban all coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year, which shows Beijing's resolve to implement UN Security Council resolutions punishing North Korea over its nuclear program. It is now time for the US and South Korea to make constructive actions to create conditions to solve the conundrum.”
The commentary argued that the North Korean nuclear issue is deadlocked. The US and South Korea have no new tactics for compelling North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, other than to exert more pressure.
“But the situation is not as easy as that, especially given that North Korea firmly believes nuclear weapons are important tools, and that it has made huge sacrifices to develop nuclear weapons.”

“Those who believe Beijing should do more or that Beijing holds the key to solving the North Korean nuclear issue are either ignorant or calculating strategists. They are the ones who complicate the issue.”

“The US and South Korea must continue to engage with Pyongyang while imposing sanctions on it. They should give Pyongyang a choice rather than making it believe that no matter what it does, the two will overthrow its regime anyway. Engaging with Pyongyang isn't more difficult than Pyongyang giving up its nuclear ambitions.”

“It's time to restart the Six-Party Talks. The last talks were held in 2007, and North Korea, the US and South Korea have since refused to return to the negotiating table. They have set preconditions for rebooting the talks. But in the past decade, disengagement between the two sides ended up nowhere.”

“Is North Korea safer than it was 10 years ago? Does South Korea have more strategic leverage? Has the US brought North Korea to its knees?”

“There are only two solutions to break the deadlock between the US, South Korea and North Korea - a war or a turning point in coexistence. US President Donald Trump even wants to improve ties with a strategic adversary as Russia. North Korea is comparatively only an imaginary enemy. The North Korean nuclear issue requires efforts on all parties, and we hope Trump has the resolve to make those efforts.”

“Owning nuclear weapons will only bring isolation and more danger to North Korea. The Six-Party Talks are a good opportunity for all stakeholders to engage with each other. China supports any move that helps stabilize the Korean Peninsula. It is time for South Korea, the US and North Korea to engage with each other.”
The Global Times Op Ed piece suggests that those experts and analysts who judged that the suspension of coal imports is a pressure tactic for the US to do more, were essentially correct. China expects the US to support a resumption of the Six Party Talks in return for the suspension of coal imports.

The Op Ed piece has a flaw in its reasoning. By imposing the coal import suspension, China just proved correct those who have argued that China was not doing all it could to enforce UN sanctions. It is fallacious to argue that tighter sanctions on North Korea will not work. China’s recent action shows they have not been tried yet. China can do more.

Similarly, it is premature to label tighter sanctions a failure when the first potentially damaging sanctions have been in place for two days. It is time to wait to determine whether the latest sanctions bite and how hard. 

As for the Six Party Talks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un already has denounced those talks and declared that North Korea will never return to them. His actions in testing ballistic missiles, submarines and nuclear devices indicate that he is serious. The Six Party Talks are almost the embodiment of deadlock. They accomplished nothing compared to the Agreed Framework under the Clinton administration.
In every contest, there are always five possible solutions for each round: win; lose; draw; pass; change the rules; quit. 
The Obama Administration's policy of strategic patience is a “pass” move. The substance of a pass move is to do nothing until a better round emerges or better opportunities appear. The problem with the pass move on North Korea is that it failed to restrain North Korea from detonating nuclear devices or testing missile. Pass moves seem safe, but can lead to a deteriorating strategic position because they impose no burden on the other players. Pass moves are usually risk averse, hope for change moves. The best move is almost always change the rules, which is another way of saying cheat in some senses. 
Context and Precedence

The Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea, signed in 1994 during the Clinton administration, was a change the rules move that froze the North’s nuclear program; subjected it to International Atomic Energy Agency supervision and controls and opened North Korea more than any policy since the end of the Korean War. It was the only time that US Department of Energy engineers and Department of State personnel lived and worked at the Yongbyon nuclear station with North Korean engineers.

It broke down in 2003, but no one expected it to last almost ten years. During those years, there were no nuclear tests and no strategic missile launches.

The resumption of the Six Party Talks is a “draw” move that does not solve the nuclear problem. It is unclear why Chinese President Xi Jingping considers the Talks to be a “win” move, when they have been deadlocked since 2007.

None of the parties to the Talks (China, US, Russia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea) has surfaced a new idea that could change the rules without using violence. All of northeast Asia is less safe because of the weak policies of the non-North Korean members of the Talks group since 2007.

The Trump Administration understands that military strength is the only thing that the North Koreans (Norks) understand. Thus, it is likely to join with China in demanding that the Six-Party Talks resume while at the same time increasing the capacity of the US to respond to North Korean hostility with kinetic force.

Hump Day Follies

Those Amusing Progressives

At the end of 2015, even the Democrats were conceding that ObamaCare was bankrupt. Fewer and fewer insurers were accepting it and in some states there were areas where NO insurers accepted the flawed program at all. The price of ObamaCare skyrocketed. It was just another tax and that tax money was wasted. What a surprise.

There is an option for progressives who pine for the joy of national healthcare insurance. Immigrate to Canada. They're accepting anyone these days including terrorists.

Some smaller nations with big incomes from oil and other natural resources can afford to fund generous national healthcare programs. I'm happy for them and wish them all the very best, but it won't work in the USA. Not now anyway. It's important for the US to have a national safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable among us, but that's it. Charity for the lame, sick and lazy has always been available and it's appropriate. 

ObamaCare will be repealed along with the underlying tax, and what takes its place will be better with an emphasis on opening up the entire nation to all insurers (not the case now) and allow them to compete to give better service at a more affordable price. Capitalism works if you allow it to. The progs will protest and tear their clothing in anguish, but the country will move on.

Meanwhile in California, there are ads running on radio primarily, telling people that ObamaCare is wonderful, vibrant and encouraging people to sign up to enjoy the benefits. The ObamaCare outlet in California is "Covered California". I want to reply to the radio, "Have you heard the news?" Then I realize that they only listen to the corrupt, elite, smug, progressive, self-satisfied, deceptive, nasty mainstream media, which assures them that President Trump will be impeached before ObamaCare can be repealed.

No More Black Targets?

I spent the bulk of my life shooting holes in black paper targets for a living. Now progressives are trying to change the tradition. A group of artists is urging law enforcement and the military to stop using “menacing black silhouette” targets at the shooting range, claiming they contribute to “unconscious bias” and ultimately violence against black people.
“The campaign seeks to eliminate the use of these targets, forever,” the initiative’s website says. The petition calls on the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors to start “getting rid of black targets at shooting ranges and replacing them with variations of more diverse target designs.”
Discriminatory toward terrorists?
The petition references a November 2015 University of Illinois study that found people were faster to shoot black targets than white ones, and that they also unloaded more bullets into black targets. I find this interesting because I never equated shooting a black paper silhouette target with shooting a person of a particular race.

No More Black Targets did not respond to e-mail, so the editorial staff at Virtual Mirage called them and spoke with Elliot, who answers the phone. VM asked Elliot if they opposed silhouette targets that depicted terrorists (see right). 

Discriminatory toward
American Indians?
VM asked if having people shoot at red targets instead wasn't potentially inviting them to slaughter American Indians - it's been done before...

Elliot seemed confused when VM equated his employment with somehow opposing anti-terrorist targets. So Virtual Mirage asked him about the movement's progress. He said that they were doing well. Virtual Mirage noted that to date the petition has garnered about 250 signatures on it. Elliott wasn't aware but said, if true, it didn't bode well for his minimum wage employment.

Massachusetts law has long banned the use of targets at shooting ranges “that depict human figures, human effigies, human silhouettes or any human images thereof, except by public safety personnel performing in line with their official duties.” I'm surprised that California hasn't done that too. Maybe somebody needs to call the legislature and get them on it.

As far as I know, there is no move in either Texas, Wyoming or Arizona to ban lifelike paper targets.

The Pope Weighs In (again)

The Pope opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline because it runs across Indian land...except that it doesn't. Never did and the Indians are upset because they didn't get to dip their beaks into the pot of real estate money paid for other land access.

The Missouri and Mississippi rivers have over 400 pipelines of different sorts crossing under them at present and there are no problems with THOSE.
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis insisted Wednesday that indigenous groups must give prior consent to any economic activity affecting their ancestral lands, a view that conflicts with the Trump administration, which is pushing to build a $3.8 billion oil pipeline over opposition from American Indians.
President Trump doesn't care.

The Grand Mufti was Punked

France’s populist candidate for President, Marine Le Pen (the French Donald Trump) was in Lebanon this week to meet Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is a Christian. She also had a session scheduled with the country’s top Sunni Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, the Grand Mufti. 

The Grand Mufti of Lebanon
The Mufti's staff told Ms. Le Pen that women were required to don headscarves before entering the presence of the Mufti. Le Pen refused, and after a few awkward moments between her staff and the sheikh’s, abruptly called off the audience and left. “I consider the headscarf a symbol of a woman’s submission,” she said afterward. “I will not put on the veil.”
Marine Le Pen

Le Pen is leading in the polls and is ardently opposed to more Muslim immigration into France - where they have caused a great deal of trouble and bloodshed. She's a hard liner who wants to make France great again.

Le Pen’s timing could not have been better. On the same day that she snubbed the Muslim mufti, police arrested three suspects in southern France for plotting what they called “an imminent terror attack.” That headline, juxtaposed with Le Pen’s face-down of a Muslim grandee, will reinforce her warning that France already has too many immigrants.

Le Pen considers the obliteration of ISIS to be one of France's primary missions. Part of that plan requires the expulsion of illegal aliens from France.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Two Thoughts for Tuesday

Thoughts on NATO

Mr. Stoltenberg
Jens Stoltenberg is Secretary General of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and an old friend of our fellow blogger, and my colleague from Norway, who comments under the name, "Valuesim". I've been following Sec. Gen. Stoltenberg's reaction to President Trump's and Vice President Pence's comments about NATO, and the need to modernize, to fight Islamic terrorism (which the Pope doesn't believe in - but the Pope may also believe that the Earth is flat the way Popes did 1000 years ago).

On the issue of terrorism, Stoltenberg noted that NATO is helping train security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and is contributing surveillance planes to the fight against the Islamic State. Then he added what VP Pence wanted to hear: "But we agree that the alliance can, and should do more, in the fight against terrorism."

During the election cycle there was near-hysteria among NATO membership when candidate Trump announced that NATO was obsolete and that member states were not paying their fair share. That hysteria turned to panic when he won the election. But the fact is, burden sharing is an old idea, and a non-controversial one. Modernizing NATO's approach in the age of the Islamic State is also eminently reasonable. And now NATO, facing the reality of a Trump presidency, has little choice but to go along.

Donald Trump moved the NATO debate. After much fretting, and complaining, and denouncing, NATO did the simplest thing: It went along.

China, North Korea and President Trump

China’s Commerce Ministry announced on 18 February that it will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea.
"In order to implement the NSC Resolution No. 2321, according to the Foreign Trade Law of the PRC, MOFCOM Announcement No. 81 of 2016, China suspends coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year (including shipments that have been reported to customs yet granted permission for release). This announcement shall be implemented from Feb 19, 2017, to December 31, 2017."
China is North Korea’s largest export market, accounting for over 85% of its total exports in 2015, according to the UN. More than half of the exports, or $1.1 billion, was comprised of coal. Coal is North Korea’s primary export commodity. 

A survey of commentaries on this Chinese action revealed three theories about why the Chinese acted now. The progressive, elite, smug mainstream media judged that this action was in response to the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia. The Chinese are angry because Kim Jong Nam was under their protection, living in Macao, and North Korea’s leaders knew it.

Academics judged that it was an administrative action taken in response to changes in domestic demand for coal. The timing was arranged to reinforce the perception that China is cracking down harder on North Korea.

The third view - that the corrupt, elite, progressive, smug mainstream media rejects, but is likely closer to the truth is that the coal crackdown is a gambit in Chinese dealings with the new US administration. This judgment is that China has shifted to the US the burden of making progress in relations.The message is that China has responded to a key policy concern of the US – that China can and must exert more pressure on North Korea. It is now incumbent on the US to reciprocate on a key Chinese policy concern, such as the installation of advanced missile defenses in South Korea.

Any action involving China, coal and North Korea is complex because the Chinese cannot be trusted to enforce a suspension, in this instance, as strictly as it was announced. There always are loopholes.

China Understand the Norks

China sends blunt messages to North Korea because they don't understand anything else. We note that the first Chinese statement of opposition to North Korea’s 12 February missile test was followed by a public announcement of tightened sanctions. The suspension of coal imports was announced within a week of the assassination of Kim Jong Nam on the 13th. Correlation is not causation, but close timing often is evidence of causation. The Chinese are displeased with Kim Jong Un, but they also want some form of reciprocation from the US. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Defending an Island Nation

I've heard rumors that the British are starting to get serious about defending their island(s). I've heard those same rumors before, but this time they're different by degree partly because of BREXIT.

The changing nature of advanced surface-to-air missiles has changed the way that the UK's Royal Air Force trains to fight. Since getting a few feet off the deck can mean an unhappy ending, they train to hug the terrain.  I personally feel as if they need to buy some F-18G electronic warfare aircraft from the US in an attempt to help resolve their vulnerability. 

GR3A Jaguar

GR4 Tornado
Nimrod MR-2
The British did plan to build a replacement for the venerable Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2, but the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 never made it off the drawing board. The roles intended for the MRA4 are filled by existing assets such as the Type 23 Frigate and the Merlin helicopter. On 23 November 2015, the UK announced its intention to order nine US made Boeing P-8 Poseidon ASW aircraft, as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, effectively replacing the Nimrod.

P-8 Poseidon
Notice that I am not bashing the Royal Navy, which relies on its allies' good will - to partner with in operations. The Brits will throw in a frigate as a member of an American carrier task force or they will take their turn patrolling shipping lanes against piracy and that's all useful. But it's not what they used to do. They rely a lot on helicopters and their three helicopter assault ships, but the ships lack a lot of capacity for offensive action unless one writes of amphibious assault and they can do that so long as nobody with any military capacity is shooting back.

If Great Britain ever wants to be great again, they need to take their status as an island nation seriously and rebuild their capacity for self defense. But that's just my view.

Shall we Tolerate California?

What can be done about California?

Some uncharitable people feel that walling off the Golden State would be a good idea. While I can't argue against that (to protect the rest of the nation from illegal aliens), there may be another way...CANADA

The way that I see it, if Canadians are willing to take Syrian refugees, they could also take California liberals, college professors, Hollywood, Bay Area parasites, the politicians, illegal aliens, and all of the welfare recipients who vote both early and often

However if we do that we need to build a wall on the northern border to keep them from returning to the lower 48. The door north for Canadian asylum hippies does not swing both ways. We need to make that clear. The Hollywood freaks and misfits can go there and take their lucre with them, but there is no coming back to the mansions on the warm and inviting beaches.

A New Target for Hatred on Campus in California

First President Trump was the target, then First Lady Melania Trump was scorned for saying the Lord's Prayer... and now it's the Dalai Lama? Am I the only one who feels that political correctness has taken a step into the surreal?

Chinese students on campus are defending the official line of the Chinese Communist Party,  which is not fond of the Dalai Lama. I'm sure that funding for this official student outrage and unrest is coming from Beijing.

Where is the mainstream media outrage?

Where are the Congressional inquiries into the PRC's apparatus funding campus dissent in the USA?
(Quartz Media) On Feb. 2, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) formally announced that the Dalai Lama would make a keynote speech at the June commencement ceremony. 
The announcement triggered outrage among Chinese students who view the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as an oppressive figure threatening to divide a unified China. A group of them now plans to meet with the university chancellor to discuss the content of the upcoming speech.

The awkwardness doesn’t end there. As the aggrieved students have trumpeted their opposition, their rhetoric has borrowed elements from larger campus activist movements across the United States. The upshot: What Westerners might perceive as Communist Party orthodoxy is mingling weirdly with academia’s commitment to diversity, political correctness, and other championed ideals. 
It might be appropriate to send the Chinese students back home to China? "UCSD is a place for students to cultivate their minds and enrich their knowledge. Currently, the various actions undertaken by the university have contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness—the ethos upon which the university is built. These actions have also dampened the academic enthusiasm of Chinese students and scholars." They have branded the Dalai Lama's proposed speech as a move against “diversity” and “political correctness.” Others contended the university was acting hypocritically by inviting an “oppressive” figure like the Dalai Lama while fostering a climate of anti-racism and anti-sexism.

The smug, elite, corrupt, progressive movement does like Pope Francis and so long as he remains a committed communist, he could give the speech, I guess.